Again seeking efficiency, and short on time for dinner, I repurposed the chicken and soup from last night into a nice curry. Japanese yam and zucchini simmered in coconut milk, the soup, the pesto gravy, vindaloo paste, spices, and lemon juice. I added the chicken at the end to warm it through. We had pappadums and mango chutney for an appetizer since Milo was “very very hungry.” I had a 2006 Sancerre by Franck Millet which is one of my favorite whites right now- for the money (15 bucks) it goes with so many things and works well by itself as an aperitif if people drop by.
Christine gets back on Tuesday, so Milo and I had a pretty mellow birthday; Wednesday night I’m going to cook a hanger steak sous vide and make some decadent accompaniments, but for tonight a puréed soup of leek and celery root (with the very last of the vegetable shepherd’s pie thrown in for depth and efficiency) and then pan-roasted chicken seasoned with ras-el-hanout, sudachi powder, salt & pepper, and garlic with a kale pesto gravy and kimchi. Not elegant at all, but the soup was a big hit and the pesto gravy was one of those “duh” moments when I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it sooner. I opened a 2001 Leflaive Meursault to compare to the last of the Montagny from the other night; they both did fascinating things with the soup. I got two books: McGee’s On Food And Cooking, and Weiskopf’s Yaje: The New Purgatory. Opposite extremes of the spectrum to be sure, but I’m equally excited by both.
In the mood to play more with my new toy, I vacuum sealed some wild salmon with ginger, garlic, lemon thyme, 5 spice, and sudachi powder. Cooked for half an hour at 47˚C and served on brown rice with a kale-endive pesto, kimchi, and a tomato-blood orange sauce. The beauty of salmon like this is that it looks raw, yet pulls apart like cooked, and the vacuum really helps the flavors get into the fish. Next time I might toss it in a hot pan for just a minute to crust the top, but there’s something to be said for the pure silkiness all the way through.
This kimchi is so good and so addictive that I’m going to start another batch next week so we don’t run out. In keeping with the fun, experimental mood, I opened two wines that I knew would be fine, even better, after a day or two open: a 2005 Boillot Montagny 1er cru and a 1999 Parent Chambolle-Musigny. Neither was stellar, but each did play off different aspects of the meal with some success and it will be nice to have them around to try with something totally different in a day or two.
We had a few friends over, with a total of 5 more kids, because Milo wanted to have a pizza party. I made four: potato, (our almost very last) kale pesto & dried tomato (mixed with a bit of basil pesto and the endive-umeboshi mash) zucchini (our very last) and shiitake-guanciale (sautéed in a pan with garlic and parsely until nice and caramelized.) The last two were with homemade tomato sauce and local mozzarella. I’ve pretty much perfected my dough recipe, and with the convection oven at 500˚ and a $3 tile from Lowe’s in the oven they come out pretty crispy and authentic. The key is to get the crust nice and thin. Jackie brought some local ice cream. There were no leftovers.
If Christine were here, I would have made this into sushi, but containing hurricane Milo while preparing dinner requires some compromise. I did get a chance to play with my new (used) water bath, which is all that matters. Trimmed grass-fed organic ribeye cooked sous-vide at 130˚ for a bit over an hour, then seared in a skillet to get a nice brown on the top and bottom. Sliced thin over Thai black rice with a rich mash of endive, ume plum, garlic, and oil, it covered a lot of ground with a few ingredients. To celebrate my return to meat and wine, I opened a 2004 Mongeard-Mugneret Savigny-les-Beaune “Les Narbantons” which is slowly opening up but needs quite a bit more time to show its stuff; if it lives up to its nose it will be a good value.
A perennial favorite, and great kid food that also satisfies a more sophisticated adult palate, I find that this is one of those dishes- like penne all’arrabiata- that is deceptively hard to get just right. The key (apart from cooking the pasta properly) is the integration of the various strong flavors into a near-seamless whole within a sauce that has to be just reduced and oily enough to coat the pasta. When it’s done right, it sings four-part harmony and transcends its humble status; it becomes the perfect plate of pasta, the Platonic Penne.
Christine is in Turkey for a week, so it’s just Milo and me which means I get to play around with healthy and refined versions of kid food to keep us both happy. Last night was a good example; I used the leftover mashed sweet potatoes and a chicken carcass to make a shepherd’s pie with a cornucopia of garden goodies. The chicken made a simple broth, while kabocha squash, carrots, onion, leeks, scallions, radish, potatoes, celery, and herbs (all from the garden) had a quick sautée, sprinkle with flour, and then addition of broth to bubble and thicken. Poured into glass dish, topped with mashed sweets, and baked, it hit all the right creamy comfort notes while still being super-healthy (and the squash and potatoes were perfectly al dente.)
There’s little that’s less photogenic than shepherd’s pie, so I’ll make do with the bread I made yesterday morning. I did the full recipe in the big Dutch oven this time, and it worked really well; the sides gave the loaf good height and shape, and the steam before I took the lid off made for the best crust yet. The only trick is leaving it in the oven long enough, since it requires a lot more time to bake through than the smaller size.
The anti-Halloween, if you will. Super clean and healthy to compensate for all the sweets. Brown rice, with three complementary preparations on top: seitan braised with onion, radish, carrot, ginger, garlic, and scallion; freshly-dug burdock simmered in water with a pinch of salt; a purée of collards, mustard greens, and sorrel with lime. Milo LOVES burdock, and told me so. This was a nice case of making satisfying food for the family while still keeping to the requirements of my “Dieta.”
Soon the kimchi will be ready (and I’ll be able to eat it) and then this type of food will get a boost to an even higher level. One of the best parts about a garden is the ability to make fantastic condiments to give winter food some excitement and spice.
Chris & Sirkka gave us some fennel since ours is done, and it completely dominated this meal. Sautéed and then braised a bit to soften- with only oil, lemon, salt, and pepper- it was meltingly smooth, sweet, and sublime. The pan-roasted salmon (well-done by request) and mashed sweet potato/Japanese yam combination were fine, even delicious, but the fennel was on another plane entirely.
Here’s Milo in his chef outfit, enjoying a lollipop. Surprisingly enough, he figured out the whole say-trick-or-treat-and-get-free-candy thing pretty quickly. Astonishing. The parade was fun, and we ran into all our friends, all in costume.